Coach concession cuts put services in danger

Over 60s or disabled coach travellers could see their fares doubled after the government scrapped concessionary fares.
Over 60s or disabled coach travellers could see their fares doubled after the government scrapped concessionary fares.

NATIONAL cuts to concessionary coach travel for over 60s and those with a disability will hit Bridlington hard, according to a transport campaigner.

From October 31, over 60s and disabled travellers in Bridlington will no longer be entitled to receive discounts on their coach fare.

Transport campaigner Nick Harvey, of Hunmanby, fears that the knock-on effect of axing the scheme will see routes “abandoned or reduced in days of operation or go seasonal”.

There are currently two daily National Express coach routes that depart from Bridlington connecting the town with London, and Brecon in Wales - a service which calls at other cities such as York, Leeds and Birmingham.

Statistics provided by National Express show that 68 per cent of passengers who depart from the town use concessionary fares that provides 50% discount during off peak periods and 30% discount during peak periods.

Mr Harvey, a green party councillor in Hunmanby, said: “I believe that older and disabled people in rural areas are likely to be worst affected.

“Yorkshire’s East Coast towns have a high level of disabled and elderly residents, often isolated from family and friends, the big attraction of the National Express Coach services are they give this area direct links to other towns.”

A spokesperson for National Express told the Free Press that the company are “looking at” a new over 60s discount scheme, but admitted that services would be reviewed if there was a dramatic reduction in passengers.

Although National Express do not record figures of destinations that coach passengers travel to, it is possible that a similar percentage of tourists travelling to the town could be affected by the price hikes.

A single ticket from Bridlington to London currently costs around £30, with a ticket all the way to Brecon costing £58.40.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of Age UK says: “Many older people depend on the coach concession to get out and about, to see friends and family or travel further afield if they wish.

“The coach concession is an effective way of preventing loneliness and social isolation of people in later life.”

Neil Coyle, Director of Policy at the Disability Alliance says: “A third of disabled people already live in poverty in the UK and discounted travel - especially long distance - has been a significant help to see family or to be able to take a short break.

“Many disabled people will be unable to travel at full cost on coaches and train fares can seem out of reach, especially with half working age disabled adults out of work and disabled people in work earning less than non-disabled colleagues.”

The concessionary fare scheme ends on October 31 this year, but bookings can still be made for travel up to 31st August 2012. National Express’ own website is encouraging those affected by the cuts to write to their MP and has provided a template letter to do so.

What do you think? Will you be affected by the scheme, and might the cuts stop you travelling?

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